Saturday, October 29, 2011

Arroz Mexicano (Mexican Rice)

It seems almost natural.  Order any dish at a Mexican restaurant and a little bowl or side of Mexican rice (Arroz Mexicano) magically appears.  It is as if there is some unseen and unspoken bond between the dish and the rice.  Whether it is fajitas, tacos or enchiladas, those dishes are accompanied by this seemingly omnipresent rice. 

Interestingly, rice is not native to Mexico and this common side dish represents an interesting example of fusion cuisine.  The Spanish conquistadors and colonists brought rice with them during the 1500s.   Although rice is definitely Spanish in origin, grown in Valencia for centuries, this dish is Mexican in preparation.  The rice is sauteed first, before the addition of chicken broth and tomatoes.  The use of tomatoes actually are a cheaper, New World substitute for saffron, which is what the Spanish would have used in the Old World when making a rice dish. 

I recently made Arroz Mexicano as a side for the Mole Verde Zacatecano. There are many recipes for Mexican Rice, but I wanted a recipe that would be quick and easy.  This would allow me to focus on making the mole.  I found a recipe from the Food Network that was fairly easy to make and, as it turns out, very delicious. The rice took on that nice red-orange color that is characteristic of Mexican rice.

One note, instead of using chicken broth, I used chicken stock.  I thought the use of stock would give more flavor to the rice.  

This recipe is so easy that it will most likely surface again whenever I make a Mexican dish.  This is how it must have started ...

ARROZ MEXICANO
Recipe from FoodNetwork.com
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
3 tomatoes
2 cups of chicken broth or chicken stock, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups of medium grain rice
2 teaspoons of salt
1 bay leaf
1 whole serrano chile
1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed

Directions:
1.  Prepare the cooking liquid. Cut the tomatoes in half, and remove the seeds. Add the tomatoes and two cups of broth to a blender and puree. Strain into a bowl and reserve the liquid. Add enough extra broth to make four cups of liquid.

2.  Saute the vegetables.  In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrots and saute for four minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and saute for one minute.

3.  Toast the rice.  Stir the rice in with the onions and garlic.  Cook teh rice until slightly toasted, about three minutes. 

4.  Boil the rice.  Add the tomato broth mixture, stir and bring to boil. Add the salt, bay leaf, and the serrano chile. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. 

5.  Finish the dish.  Remove the pan from heat. Scatter the peas over the top of the rice, cover, and let the rice stand for five minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork, transfer to a serving bowl and serve. 

ENJOY!

For more about the history of Arroz Mexicano, check out About.com and Mexconnect.

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